Weekly Chasidic Story #673 (s5771-07 / 11 Mar-Cheshvan 5771)
First and Second Thoughts
The Chernobyler Rebbe opened the drawer where he kept the money he was given for personal use; his attendant was surprised.
Connection: Seasonal – 223rd yahrzeit
The tzadik Rabbi Nochum of Chernobyl lived in great poverty. Once, a chasid brought him a gift of 300 rubles. Hisgabbai-attendant, who also oversaw the needs of the home, was so happy that the large debts they had accumulated would finally be paid up. When this chasid left Rabbi Nochum’s room, tens of other chasidim had their turn.
Finally, they interrupted to pray Maariv, the evening prayer. After Maariv the tzadik closed himself in his room for a while, and then opened the door and asked for one of the chasidim, who had been in private audience with him earlier, to be summoned back. After that chasid left, the tzadik continued seeing waiting chasidim until late into the night.
After all the visitors left, the gabbai entered the Rebbe’s room to request some money, having already made a list of the amount he would pay each creditor. Rabbi Nochum opened for him the drawer where he kept the money he was given for personal use. The gabbai was surprised to see only a few silver and copper coins, but no sign of the 300 rubles.
The tzadik told him to take all the coins, but the gabbai remained rooted to his place, downcast but unable to speak up. The tzadik asked him why he looked so sad, if after all, G-d had sent them money. The gabbai, no longer able to contain himself, asked about the 300 rubles.
“When I received the money I wondered why I had merited such a sum,” the Rebbe replied, “for a moment I was happy that I had found favor in the eyes of the Al-mighty and that He had chosen to sustain my family and myself with a generous hand. But when I thought into the matter a little more deeply I became distressed, lest He had given me material benefits instead of spiritual riches. So when one man told me about his lack of funds for tuition, rent, and his daughter’s wedding, it dawned on me that G-d was giving me the special merit of supporting this Jew. In fact, the amount the chasid needed totaled the exact amount that I had received.
“However, as soon as I decided to give the 300 rubles to this man, another thought came to my mind, ‘Why give so much money to one person, when it can be divided between six families? Fifty rubles is already quite a respectable gift.’
“Faced with the dilemma of these two options, I closed myself in my room. After thinking it through, I came to the conclusion that the second idea, to divide the money among a number of families, was not coming from my Yetzer tov, my ‘good inclination,’ for then it would have entered my mind immediately. It was only when I thought of the mitzvahthat this thought came along. Therefore,” Reb Nochum concluded, “I decided that its purpose was to trick me. So I fulfilled the advice of my good inclination and gave the chasid the entire 300 rubles.”
* * *
The Sixth Lubavitcher Rebbe, R. Yosef Yitzchak Shneersohn, added:
From this we see how important is discernment, always knowing from where a thought is coming. This discernment can only be acquired through strong effort in serving G-d.
His son-in-law and successor, the Lubavitcher Rebbe of our generation, applied this concept:
When one starts a Torah study session, if he suddenly has the thought to go spread Judaism instead, he should know that this impulse is coming from the Yetzer Hara. (Sefer HaSichos 5703, p. 67)
Source: Adapted by Yerachmiel Tilles from Lma’an Yishme’u 54 <email@example.com> (plus a two-sentence insertion from A Treasury of Chassidic Tales).
Connection: Seasonal – 223rd yahrzeit
Rabbi Menachem-Nachum, the Maggid of Chernobyl [1730-11 Cheshvan 1787] and founder of the Chernobyl dynasty from whom all the Twerskys are descended, was a disciple of the Baal Shem Tov and senior disciple of the Maggid of Mezritch. He is the author of Meor Enayim.
Yerachmiel Tilles is co-founder and associate director of Ascent-of-Safed, and chief editor of this website (and of KabbalaOnline.org). He has hundreds of published stories to his credit, and many have been translated into other languages. He tells them live at Ascent nearly every Saturday night.